Do You Possess the Management Trait Employees Value Most?

BY Kathy Crosett
Featured image for “Do You Possess the Management Trait Employees Value Most?”

Are you stressing out because you’re not coming across as a warm and caring leader? Many management studies these days have us believing that employees will beeline for the exit if the boss forgets to ask how their child or puppy is doing. News flash. The latest research from Stanford Graduate School of Business shows employees have another priority.

Competent versus Social

Stanford University professor Jeffrey Pfeffer and University of Virginia professor Peter Belmi set up three studies that investigated the attitudes of nearly 1,000 employees. The employees were put into situations that tested whether they preferred bosses and colleagues who were competent versus those who were sociable.

In one study, 77% of employees said they’d choose the highly competent candidate to join an investment banking team. And, after people were told that the team’s compensation would depend on team performance, the preference for the highly competent candidate rose to 83%.

The Financial Connection

In an Insights by Stanford Business column, Edmund Andrews summarizes the findings: “when money is on the line…most people would rather work for a very competent jerk than a nice but less competent boss.” The researchers point out that many of leaders seen as most successful in the U.S., such as Steve Jobs or Jack Welch, lacked the soft skills that we’ve been told are necessary to ensure employee loyalty and engagement.

When you’re preparing to promote an employee to a management role, consider competency. Employees want to be on a winning team. They’re keenly aware of the impact a boss or colleague can have on their paychecks. They’ll worry that a manager who lacks competence might impact the bottom line for them in a very personal way.

Of course, you should continue to work on your soft skills and those of your managers. Ignoring them “can undermine a team’s performance in the long run.” And, if you forget to ask an employee about an important life event, because you’re busy negotiating a new partnership, remind yourself to do better next time.